What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a violent crime in which the assailant uses sex to inflict violence and humiliation on the victim or to exert power and control over the victim. In the United States, an estimated 1,871 woman are forcibly raped daily, equating to 56,916 rapes each month, the highest of any industrialized nation in the world.

Sexual assault includes several kinds of crimes rape, incest, sexual harassment, child molestation, marital rape, exposure and voyeurism. Ninety percent of all rape are planned and in 87% of the cases the assailant either carried a weapon or threatened the victim with death or bodily injury if he/she resisted. Offenders have other means at their disposal to intimidate. These include the use or threat of force,trickery, coercion or bribery. Generally the offender takes advantage of some power imbalance, such as age,size, strength, development, knowledge, status, etc. to humiliate, violate and control the victim.COmmaon

Common Reactions to Sexual Assault

  • Emotional Shock
  • Disbelief
  • Embarrassment
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Powerlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Anxiety

Myths & Facts About Rape

MYTH: It could never happen to me.

FACT: Everyone is a potential rape victim: females/males of any age, race, class, religion, occupation, education, or physical description.

MYTH: Most rapes occur as a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ act in a dark alley by a stranger

FACT: Most rapes are planned and often occur in one’s home. Many times the offender is a relative, friend, neighbor, or other acquaintance of the victim. A rapist will rape again and again, generally in the same area of town and in the same manner. 

MYTH: Rape is primarily a sexual crime.

FACT: Rape is violent assault that is acted out sexually. it violates not only the victim’s personal integrity, but also her/his sense of safety and control over life.

MYTH: A rapist is easy to spot in a crowd.

FACT: Most rapists appear to be normal.Most are married and young. They can be of any race, color or economic class..

MYTH: Rape happens only to young women.

FACT: Rape victims may rage in age from 4 months to 92 years. Rape is an  act of force for which everyone must be prepared. People of all ages, socio-economic groups,neighborhoods and lifestyles can be victims. 

MYTH: Some victims are ‘asking for it’ by their dress and actions

FACT: Again, most rapes are planned. Research shows that rapists are looking for available, vulnerable targets, not people who dress or behave in a particular way. No person deserves to be hurt or degraded.

MYTH: There is no way to guarantee that sexual assaults will never happen.

FACT: There are ways to reduce the risk of another assault and increase awareness, sensitivity and safety, For example, there are self-defense classes, which teach how to be alert, fend off attack, and aid others in crisis.

If You Are Raped:

  • Go to a friend;s house or somewhere you can get emotional support. 
  • Seek medical treatment. DO NOT douche, bathe, shower, eat or drink anything or change clothes before you go.
  • Report the rape to authorities ( this does not mean that you have to agree to press charges.)
  • Seek counseling. Even if you don’t report the rape or press charges, you should contact your nearest rape crisis center for information about counseling. Their services are free and confidential.


Why Do I Need Medical Attention?

                    What is the sexual assault exam?

It is a physical examination performed by medical personnel for the purpose of collecting legal evidence. It is not a medical treatment. the presence or absence of physical evidence does not prove whether a person has been sexually assaulted. Rather, it provides supportive evidence to be used during the legal proceeding, if the case is prosecuted.

                     Who pays for the exam?

Medical care such as  treatment and counseling may be paid for by Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund. Someone at the hospital or your local/victim witness office or your sexual assault advocate will be able to help you obtain and fill out these forms.

                   Will I need any follow-up?

Following any sexual assault, two medical issues must be addressed: the possibliblites of pregnancy ( if the victim is female ) and sexually transmitted diseases and way to protect yourself against these risks. Follow-up instruction will be given to you by the attending medical personnel.

The Legal Process

If I decide to prosecute what must I do? 

Once you have made this decision, you will be asked to give the law enforcement agency handling the case a written statement telling them what happened and give a description of your offender. You would also be encouraged to contact your local rape crisis center. It would be your choice if you would like an advocate from the center to be part of your meeting with law enforcement.

After I give the statement, what happens?

If the offender has not already been arrested, the police will make a report of the offense and begin to investigate the case. Once an arrest has been made, a copy of the arrset warrant will be sent to the District Attorney’s office to receive victims’ rights information.

“In some counties of North Carolina once the investigation has been completed, the police officer and the District Attorney would then review the investigation before an arrest is made*

Will the offender be able to get out of jail on bond after being arrested?

It is possible that the offender may be able to get released from jail on bond. A judge considers many factors in setting the amount of the bond. if you have issues of concern regarding your safety should the offender be released, it is important that you contact the District Attorney’s office and/or the investigative officer and let them know of your concerns. A victim should always request that the officer or the District Attorney’s office contact the victim and give them the most current information regarding the offender’s bond status.

What happens after the charges are filed and an arrest is made?

In North Carolina, once a defendant is arrested and charged with  a felony offense, the State will proceed by sending indictment (formal charges) to the Grand Jury. Once the Grand jurors have signed these formal charges knows as bills of indictment., the case is officially calendared in Superior Court.

Another method to bring felony offenses up to the Superior Court level would be by means of what is called probable cause hearing. This special hearing does not determine the guilt or innocence of th accused, but only whether or not probable cause exists to send the matter on to Superior Court.

Because probable cause hearing would require the victim to testify in court about the sexual assault, a prosecutor will more often than not proceed to Grand jury when seeking indictment.

Will I have to testify before the Grand Jury and if so, when?

In North Carolina, the victim is not required to testify before the Grand Jury.

What happens if there is an indictment? ( A formal charge of a crime)

The case will be scheduled for Superior Court

When will my case be tried?

This will depend on the volume of cases in the Superior Court where your case is being handled. Sometimes cases are not reached for trial for several months or longer due to the complexity of the legal issues or the need to consult with experts.

For more information about local policies and the legal system, contact the local sexual assault program, the local victim/witness officer the detective assigned to your case, or the district attorney’s office


North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault